October 25, 2012
A new Canadian study reveals elevated levels of HIV drug-resistant strains in the Sudbury, Ontario, area. Dr. Robert Remis of the Ontario HIV Epidemiologic Monitoring Unit presented his findings October 24 as part of Réseau Access Network's annual Opening Doors HIV/AIDS conference in Sudbury. He stated, "Our recent review of cases over the last 10 years or so revealed that among HIV patients in the Sudbury and District Health Unit service area, roughly 50 percent show resistance to some of the most commonly used medications. Typically in Ontario, we would expect 5 to 15 percent of HIV patients to have some resistance."
Dr. Remis's study indicated that injection drug users and women in the health unit's service area are more likely to have a resistant strain. In other parts of Ontario, resistant strains are more likely to be reported in men who have sex with men. While resistant HIV strains do not respond to certain medications, they can be treated by other effective options. Further study is underway to confirm the preliminary findings and better understand local patterns of resistance.
A total of 120 cases of HIV infection were reported in the health unit's service area from 2000 to 2010, with an overall average of 11 cases per year. On average each year, there are 1,125 new HIV infections reported in Ontario. Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Sudbury and District medical officer of health, declared, "It's critical to practice safer sex, not share drugs and injection drug equipment, and to know your and your partner's HIV status." If infection does occur, experts advise that properly taking prescribed medications reduces the likelihood of developing more resistant strains, for which there may be even fewer treatment options.